At Home

At Home

A Short History of Private Life

Book - 2010 | 1st U.S. ed
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From one of the most beloved authors of our time, a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home. Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as found in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to "write a history of the world without leaving home." The bathroom provides the occasion for the history of hygiene, the bedroom for an account of sex, death, and sleep, the kitchen for a discussion of nutrition and the spice trade, and so on, showing how each has figured in the evolution of private life. From architecture to electricity, from food preservation to epidemics, from the telephone to the Eiffel Tower, from crinolines to toilets -- and the brilliant, creative, and often eccentric talents behind them -- Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world ends up in our houses, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture. - Jacket flap.
Bryson takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, showing how each room has figured in the evolution of private life.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, ©2010
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780767919388
Call Number: 643.1 B9166a 2010
Characteristics: 497 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Bryson takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, showing how each room has figured in the evolution of private life.

Does a 'mouche' worn on a man's left cheek in 1790s England reflect his political leanings as a Whig or a Tory?

Bryson takes readers on a tour of his house, a rural English parsonage, showing how each room has figured in the evolution of private life.

From the critics

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Jul 28, 2020

Only Bill Bryson could write such a fact filled and enjoyable book structured around the rooms of a house. The pictures and drawings in the hard copy version of the book are fantastic. I have so much respect and admiration for this man - the amount of research he does and his wonderful writing style. I always learn so much after reading one of his books.

ArapahoeLesley Mar 27, 2019

Bill Bryson is awesome. I was a bit dubious at first with the Dewey classification being in the home section but this is really a history book within which Bryson uses 'the home' to navigate between topics. There are so many quirky and fascinating tidbits of information in this book told in Bryson's clever and uniquely entertaining voice, I would recommend this to anyone.

Jan 17, 2019

A very enjoyable and edifying book! Clothing, servants, childbearing and rearing, toilets, wealth and poverty, architecture of large houses, syphilis, bathing, landscaping, wigs, food provision and preparation, building materials, and over a dozen interesting lives of failure, eccentricity and achievements, and much more. Most of it from Britain from the mid 1700s to the early 1900s, but with numerous forays into America and earlier centuries. Curiosity, patience, and friendliness characterise the prose.

Jul 17, 2018

I am a big fan of Bill Bryson's writing and enjoyed this book. After reading this book, I have become fixated with the Crystal Palace and Capability Brown!!!

Mar 28, 2018

Bill Bryson's 'At Home' title is not as simple as it sounds. Industry surrounds us where and how we have ever lived. My favorite chapter is "The Fuse Box" which chronicles whaling to drilling oil to electricity. Try reading this less than 10x.

SPPL_János Mar 15, 2018

Trust Bill Bryson to write his most wide-ranging book yet without leaving home. Framed as an exploration of his 1851 British parsonage, this fascinating history delves into the astonishing stories behind each room of a house and its contents. What's most astonishing is how commonplace amenities like cushions and adequate lighting were once revolutionary luxuries. Readers will gain newfound appreciation for the astonishingly recent concept of being comfortable at home.

SPL_Michelle Jun 01, 2017

Bill Bryson takes the reader on a marvelous journey, exploring the history of everyday objects "At Home."

Mar 12, 2016

This is a fact-filled walk through the author's home, an 1800's parsonage modeled after british buildings of the time. How does Bryson do it? There are so many trivial history factoids, you wonder where the heck he researches everything. Or does he?

Love Bryson. Favorite book of his: A Walk in the Woods. That book is hysterical. Bryson is smart and funny, I believe. This book...meh. He writes so well that it's difficult for me to withhold the stars.

Recommended for New England residents living in old rectories, or anyone in the market for the same.

Feb 08, 2016

Bill Bryson, author of fascinating works on the English language, as well as a number of humorous travel and adventure tales, invites the reader in At Home to join him on a journey through the various rooms found in his home in the Norfolk countryside in England. In each, we learn how the space originated, the history of the items found within it, and how its usage changed throughout history.
If you enjoy Bill Bryson, you will also love this. In fact, Bill Bryson ought to be writing textbooks for all manner of subjects generally considered boring. I read the illustrated edition, which quickly surpassed my expectations, and was an experience I did not wish to end.

Dec 22, 2014

Bill Bryson never fails to amuse, and to some extent, educate. He's all over the map with this one, but you'll come away with all sorts of awesome trivial information.

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“We are so used to having a lot of comfort in our lives—to being clean, warm, and well fed—that we forget how recent most of that is. In fact, achieving these things took forever, and then they mostly came in a rush.”
― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

SPPL_János Mar 15, 2018

"Throughout many periods of history—perhaps most—it can seem as if the whole impulse of fashion has been to look maximally ridiculous. If one could be maximally uncomfortable as well, the triumph was all the greater."

LudditeLord Dec 30, 2011

"Open your refrigerator door and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the eighteenth century."


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LudditeLord Dec 30, 2011

Other: Don’t try reading it in one sitting, or you’ll be overwhelmed by the details. Best sip this, one room at a time.


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